I recently discover that there’s a new reality TV show on People.com starring an Indian American family out of California, and color me excited! The last time I was this bubbly I was watching Shahs Of Sunset on Bravo. What can I say? It’s fun to see how other cultures live here in America. I click on the link to a promo episode and there’s the cutest little girl you ever did see. She’s dancing, modeling, swimming, popping off the screen! She’s…transgender. Hunh?
Yes, this six-year-old girl was born a boy.
Right away my mind is thinking of reality TV’s last child star, the larger-than-life Honey Boo Boo, and how they used her up and spit her out. The whole family is struggling now, and while their issues came along well before the cameras turned on, TV fame probably didn’t help. I see this transgender kid and wonder if she’s being used as ratings bait because, as we all know, transgender is hot. What happens if it wears off its welcome or they discover that people aren’t ready for this? It’s a heck of a position for a kid who is already figuring out who she is.
Will cameras make this child’s life better or worse?
I switch back to the promo and we’re introduced to the mom and dad. Just the fact that they dub the mom her ‘Momager’ makes me cringe. I picture her and Kris Jenner sipping latte’s. And did I mention that Devina has a teenage brother who is a dwarf? Watch out Kardashians, this family is going all in. But anyway, mom and dad share how they came to terms with the fact that Devin is now Devina.
His mom explains that from the day Devin started walking and talking it was in a feminine way. His smile and poses in pictures were all feminine. His father who they dub ‘Dr. Dad’ (not sure if he’s a real Dr.) says, “We thought that it would be a passing phase.” So when Devin tried to play with dolls they would snatch them, and when he tried telling them that God made a mistake, they shushed him- “God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Eventually, Devin stopped talking to them, and turned to his drawing pad. One day, his kindergarten teacher called Devin’s parents in for a conference to talk about a disturbing picture that he had drawn. There was an elephant named ‘Beautiful’ who was trapped in a cage, and it became clear that the elephant was Devin feeling trapped in his existence as a boy. Devin’s mom broke down crying: ‘You will never have to live as Devin again.”
Talk about a tearjerker.
Suddenly, I see this family in a whole new light. These parents seem less about gaining fame and more about showing what it takes to navigate this new world that they’ve found themselves in. Sure, they could hide, or deal with it privately, but I’m glad they’re letting us in because even though my kids aren’t transgender, I’m dealing with similar issues like bullying and figuring out how much freedom to give them. When I see how Devina’s parents are supporting her I wish that I could be as brave.
Now as to how this show will ultimately affect Devina’s life? I can only hope that it will make it better. At one point in the promo she says that she wants to do a speech to let the whole school know that she is transgender because she wants people to know that it’s okay to be that way. It’s a bold statement from a kid. Maybe she’s a teacher and maybe this show will give her a huge platform filled with lots of teachable moments. Hey, we parents know that it wouldn’t be the first time we learned something from a kid.
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Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in multiple publications. Check out her daily column, Pop Mom Daily, right here on Madamenoire or visit her blog The Brew. Before Erickka began writing she was a model/actress/MTV VJ. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Jersey City. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.